The World Series of Poker starts on Thursday, and while Texas Hold 'Em is the classic game people think of, it's not the only one that's played. There are several different poker events, and each one has its own quirks. Texas Hold 'Em, of course, has two pocket cards and a board comprised of five community cards, but there are several offshoots.
Among those offshoots at Omaha and Hi-Lo 8 or better, games that play with the classic conventions. Then, there are sub-games of Hold 'Em, such as limit vs. no-limit. Before we get to the games, here are some of the terms you'll need to know to follow the World Series of Poker, and even win the local game with your friends.
- Flop - First three community cards dealt after the first round of betting
- Turn - Fourth community card dealt after second round of betting
- River - Fifth, and final, community card dealt after third round of betting
- Pocket cards/Hole Cards - First two cards dealt to each player in Texas Hold 'em
Now, to some of the games you'll be seeing
Texas Hold 'Em
If you've watched movies in which poker is played, you're probably already familiar with this style. If you've played games like "Red Dead Redemption," you've lived it. Texas Hold 'Em is a simple game. Players are dealt two pocket cards, and five community cards make up a board. Players then use the board to make a hand of five with their pocket cards. The best hand wins.
No-limit Hold 'Em is generally played at the WSOP, meaning that there's no cap on what players can bet. The pot can get as deep as they feel comfortable playing it.
Omaha is a variant of Texas Hold 'Em. The idea is similar, only players get four hole cards dealt to them instead of two. However, they can only use two of those cards mixed with five on the board to make a hand. The extra strategy comes in knowing that some cards are already off the board based on what players have in their hands.
There's still a flop, a turn and a river, but there are also some more things to think about in terms of leveling bets.
Omaha Hi-Lo results in a split pot. Normal Omaha conventions still apply, but with a Hi-Lo split (in the WSOP's case 8 or better), the low split is tricky. The high is the same -- the best hand wins half the pot.
A low hand is five cards that don't have pairs and are ranked 8 or lower. Aces can play both ends of the split -- they can be the highest or lowest cards you can have. The ideal low hand, for reference, is 5-4-3-2-Ace. It's possible to win both halves of the pot, which is called a "scoop."
While it's a tricky game to learn, it has a lot of extra mechanics as far as betting goes. Players can try to bet more to draw out bets on the high or low end. meaning that the pots can get extremely large extremely quickly.
An easy way to remember this game is "two down, four up, one down." Players get dealt two down cards before getting an up card. Betting begins with the lowest up-card. After that, play resumes as normal, with players getting three more cards dealt face-up. Betting begins with the best poker hand. When the hand is over, players use five of the seven they were dealt to make the best hand possible.
As you can see, there's a blind element to this game. Players only ever see four of their cards at a time, so they don't know what's buried. As a result, they only mostly know what they're betting on.